The CSIRO says no decision has been made about whether it will keep the commercial capabilities of its Sydney lab credited with inventing wi-fi.
At a Senate committee hearing in Canberra, CSIRO executives confirmed about 70 staff would go from the Data61 digital research team.
The technology that allows phones and computers to wirelessly connect to networks was invented in the 1990s at CSIRO’s Marsfield lab in Sydney’s north-west.
Deputy chief executive Craig Roy was pressed by Senators to give a guarantee that the commercial capabilities from that lab would be kept.
“No decision has been made,” he said.
“Decisions haven’t been made around redundancies in Data61 or changes there – they’re being considered by [Data61 chief Adrian Turner].”
He flagged that the lab at Marsfield may close but would not comment on which staff or teams would be affected by job cuts.
“We have signalled consolidation of our property in Sydney – those folks might move to [Data61 headquarters at] Australian Technology Park,” Mr Roy said.
Delaying cuts would cost CSIRO ‘millions’
The Oceans and Atmosphere division is the hardest hit from the cuts, with about 75 positions to go.
Losses in other divisions include 35 in the minerals division, about 70 in land and water, about 30 in agriculture, 45 in manufacturing and about 20 in food and nutrition.
CSIRO explained to the Senate committee that in the oceans and atmosphere team alone, if it delayed the cuts by one year it would have cost approximately $11 million.
“There’s a reduction of 75 staff at a cost of about $150,000 per person,” Mr Roy said.
“That’s roughly $11 million of direct labour and operational costs for … one year.”
CSIRO chief financial officer Hazel Bennett later clarified the average figure per person was closer to $130,000 and the organisation had not worked out the final costs of the organisation’s restructure.
“We are supporting them so the impact is not $11 million on the business unit next year,” Ms Bennett said.
“That’s the work that I’m going across the whole of CSIRO, [to] help and smooth some of the decisions for business unit impacts.
“I cannot give you the final figure, [but it] is not an $11 million reduction to oceans and atmosphere.”
On Tuesday, CSIRO announced it would set up a national climate research centre based in Hobart for 40 full-time scientists, but confirmed more than 275 jobs will be cut from the organisation.
Labor described it as a “political fix” and senior scientists both inside and outside of CSIRO slammed it as inadequate, with one describing it like putting a bandaid “over a gaping wound”.